2017-09-13 / Sports

Indians look to stiffen run defense

Gaffney giving up 339 yds. a game on the ground
By LARRY HILLIARD
Ledger Sports Editor

Gaffney coach Dan Jones wasn’t too pleased with his team’s run defense in Friday’s loss at Harding.

Jones said Tuesday the defense’s performance was disappointing and the unit has plenty to fix heading into Friday’s tilt against Hillcrest.

“We have to be energized on defense,” Jones said. “We played one series like that but not the whole game. You have to play every series like that.”

Especially when you are going against the No. 1 tailback in the country, Quavaris Crouch, who rushed for 198 yards on 21 carries and one touchdown.

Crouch broke off a big run late as the Rams successfully ran out the clock.

The Indians gave up 402 yards on 48 carries. For the season, Gaffney is giving up 339 yards a game on the ground.

Of course, the Indians have played without their emotional leader defensive end Hunter Decker for all but two series in the opening game.

The Indians also have played two run-oriented Wing-T teams, which will impact the team’s rush totals.

Jones said he’s anticipating making changes in personnel to bolster the run defense.

“Getting Decker back will help but we aren’t tackling well and we’re not stopping the run,” the Gaffney coach said. “But we don’t want to do anything too drastic.”

One possible fix is to play more defensive linemen in a 4-man front, Jones said.

The Indians changed to a 3-4 front but it’s designed as more of an attacking defense.

Friday’s game did mark the return of big-time receiver Dennis Smith, who had four catches for 34 yards. He faced one of North Carolina’s top corners in Malik Dunlap, who has committed to N.C. State.

“We just didn’t get him the ball,” Jones said.

Smith did have a chance to make a key catch late in the game but Dunlap closed on the ball and came up with the interception to seal the game.

Jones said it will take time for Smith to round into top form.

“Dennis was hurt in April and missed a lot of time,” Jones said. “He just needs some game time. He and (quarterback) Tyshun have chemistry together, and it will take time to get that timing back.”

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